Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
PP-We-pm-ear - S3 -2: Parallel papers Wednesday early afternoon
Wednesday, 03/Jul/2019:
2:30pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Dana Roemling
Location: Seminar room 3
Storey Hall level 7

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The logico-semantic and experiential function of public legal information for youth: Is it accessible enough?

Monaliza Mamac

University of Sydney, Australia

The pressing issues of inaccessibility of language of the law is addressed in this presentation. It aims to obtain an initial insight on how an Australian organization that provides online legal information reinstantiates the law for young audiences. By deploying analytical tools in Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL), reinstantiated texts published in the organisation’s website are analysed. SFL provides a functional perspective that considers language as a meaning-making system. The texts are examined based on its logico-semantic dependencies and relation, and experiential processes within discourse semantics and in lexico-grammatical strata. Compared to the law, it is found out that the reinstantiated texts are shorter but carry similar grammatical complexities such as lexical density, grammatical intricacy, and number and depth of embedded groups and phrases. Another, these grammatical complexities that are solved through graphology seems to confound the grammar. It is identified that these complex linguistic features of the texts have bases on legal language and principles of plain English movement; hence, the accessibility of the texts needs to be reexamined. The study calls for alternative linguistic principles that deals with complex experiential processes and logico-semantic relations and dependencies not only in lexico-grammatical strata, but also in discourse level. It also calls for thinking of creative ways like using other meaning-making resources in creating online legal materials.

Access to Meaningful Written Information: Language and the Legal Process

Cathy Basterfield

Access Easy English, Australia

Reading and understanding about your rights and responsibilities, information on laws, engaging with the police or courts should not be a reading test. However for many people it is a test. Information must be simpler.

Providing information in Plain Language is one way to ensure more people can access, participate and know their rights and responsibilities. It may also be called Legal Literacy. However Plain Language or Legal Literacy only meets the needs of a portion of our communities.

44% of the adult Australian population (50% of the US, 44% in Canada and UK) do not have the literacy to manage a range of day to day reading tasks. (PIAAC, 2013). This is reading and understanding general information. Legal content is far more complex, and far less likely to be understood by more people in our community. Easy English is content written to support the needs of the 44% of the Australian population.

The 2016 Victorian Government Access to Justice report recommended Easy English needs to be more available for those who engage in our justice system. To date, there has not been any specific action taken to implement this recommendation.

This paper will draw attention to Easy English, how language is used and how complex legal language can be simplified. It will discuss this in the context of a number of local and interstate projects in Australia in the context of Family Violence and understanding the role of police.

We must engage with consumers – real consumers.

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